12 September 2012
Recently several women have described themselves to me as failures. One was unable to breastfeed one of her children. One was unable to deliver her first child in the usual way, and followed the experience with an unsuccessful VBAC attempt. Another was unable to conceive a child at all.
Nothing has demonstrated to me more effectively my own impotence than my apparent success at each of these tasks. Boob Hell I survived, but my laughably excessive reflections on it leave me nothing but bewildered as to how I did so. The births of my children have revealed to me only a body beyond my control and a mind and heart full of weakness and sin. I cannot imagine using the verb phrase "I conceived." How could I claim agency for an event I did not even know was happening? It is inelegant, but I always say, "I got pregnant." That sounds more like the truth: that someone else was the effective force. If I have succeeded as a nursing mother, as a laboring mother, as a bio-mother, I have not succeeded as a person, for each of these successes has crashed out of me in an avalanche of resistance, resentment, fear, anger, and ungratefulness.
Maybe it is easy for me as someone who has nominally succeeded in these tasks, listed above in order of decreasing "controlability," to downplay their importance. I don't even exactly mean to do that, because the tasks are important. But their importance is not in some measurement they may grant of the person who accomplishes them. The important thing is that the baby gets fed. The important thing is that the baby gets born with minimal damage to mother and child (and when a C-section is the least damaging way for that to happen, my stomach is too weak to ponder the alternative). The important thing is that a woman receive what God would give her, whatever that is or isn't. The important thing is that a woman who is given the gift of motherhood make a good faith effort to do what is best for her child. At this she will fail, for goodness and faith are not natural to her.
All this failure notwithstanding, we must still be cautious. Success, real or apparent, is a dangerous gift, for it always tempts to pride, the chief of sins.